Jewish World Review March 7, 2003 / 5 Nisan, 5763

Joanne Jacobs

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Teachers, hugging, text messaging | Robert Wright comments on the news report: "Wanting to fight to the death, Pvt. Jessica Lynch kept shooting Iraqi soldiers even after she had several gunshot wounds, finally running out of ammunition."

And she wants to be a Kindergarten teacher?

I think she's better suited for middle school.

Wright teaches seventh grade. (It has since been discovered that Lynch was not shot.)

Take world conflict to the principal's office

Conflict resolution programs , now in place in three-fourths of the nation's schools, have taught many students that every dispute -- from Saddam Hussein's poison gas to shoving in the cafeteria line -- can be solved if everyone talks it out or tells the principal, says a Washington Post story by Laura Sessions Stepp.

. . . talking with even young supporters, one is struck by the lens through which they view the war: the way they examine arguments pro and con, assume that none of the players is irredeemable, and fault President Bush and his advisers for poor communication skills.

"Americans are dictating for the Iraqi people what a 'good life' looks like," says Puneet Gambhir, a sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria. "Why didn't we communicate directly with the Iraqi people, ask them what a government for their families and friends would look like, allow them to buy into our dream? We never created buy-in."

Students are told not to deter a bully by striking first or even by striking back. They'll get into trouble under "zero tolerance" rules. Instead, they're supposed to go to an authority figure for help. They assume the United Nations is the equivalent of the principal's office.

Of course, not everyone thinks that Saddam Hussein just needs a hug.

Zach Clayton, student chairman of the National Association of Student Councils, wonders whether the interpersonal skills taught in school should even be applied to international relations. "We're quick in third grade to teach nonviolent resolution strategies," he says, "but by our junior or senior years in college we know that countries can't always play paper-rock-scissors."

Learning to analyze analogies is one of those "critical thinking" skills we always hear about. For example, the school bully might be forced to toe the line by the principal. He might learn to control his anger and work well with others. There is hope. He's just a kid. By contrast, Saddam Hussein, already responsible for the deaths of a million people, must be tolerated in all his brutality or destroyed.

Hugging instead of teaching

When a student fears a halo around the moon has something to do with war in Iraq, what's a teacher to do? In the LA Times, Los Alamitos High teacher Lorraine Gayer writes:

I told her that I too was scared, and we talked about the importance of talking to friends and family members (and teachers) about our fears. For a moment, at least, we were afraid together, and this seemed to ease her fears.

New blogger Cathy Seipp, a Los Alamitos grad, thinks teachers should wallow less and teach more.

What about the importance of not succumbing to superstitious beliefs? History teacher Gayer could have taken this opportunity to teach a good historical lesson about that.

. . . Maybe Gayer could instruct her current students about geography and the long-range incapability of Iraq's weapon system.

Maybe a science teacher could explain why the moon glows.

The men and women fighting in Iraq have a right to fear; so do their families back home. The moon-glow girl is just trying to make herself feel important. I remember a Vietnam War slogan: "What if they gave a war and nobody came?" For Gulf War II, the slogan could be: "What if they gave a war and it wasn't about you?"

Anti-war field trip

Seventh graders were taken on a class field trip to San Francisco to protest the war and pack health supplies for shipment to Iraq. Thirty students "marched up and down Market Street carrying large photos of Iraqi children and accompanied by a rolling loudspeaker blaring the simulated sounds of jet fighters, bomb blasts and crying women." National Network to End the War in Iraq set up the protest for Oakland teacher Elena Aguilar.

One girl missed out on the rare adventure across the bay for a different reason: She approves of the war.

"She said she didn't want to come because she wants Saddam out of Iraq," said Rochelle Bailey, 13. "If she wants the war, it doesn't mean I won't be her friend. A lot of people have different opinions."

Aguilar said the class had talked about how varying views "are OK." At the same time, she said, the anti-war message is important.

"As a teacher, we emphasize conflict resolution," she said. "There's never a good reason to fight."


I'm sure this teacher doesn't realize how she's limiting students' exposure to competing ideas or coercing them to resolve conflicts by accepting her prejudices.

u r iltr8, dude

Teen-agers who are fluent in Internet chatspeak can't write anything else, says this USA Today story, which quotes a 15-year-old boy's summer job application: "i want 2 b a counselor because i love 2 work with kids."

English instructor Cindy Glover, who last year taught a section of freshman composition at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, says she spent a lot of time unteaching Internet-speak. "My students were trying to communicate fairly academic, scholarly thoughts, but some of them didn't seem to know it's 'y-o-u,' not 'u,'" Glover says. ''I wanted to teach them to communicate persuasively, but I couldn't get past the really horrific spelling or grammar.''

They think u can get through college by chatting in slang?

The British also are complaining that students are writing in text-messaging shorthand, and I hear it's a problem in Japan too.

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JWR contributor Joanne Jacobs, a former Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer, blogs daily at She is currently finishing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school. Comment by clicking here.

03/31/03: War talk at school
03/24/03: Watching the war
03/10/03: Classroom chaos
03/03/03: Teaching tales
02/24/03: Segregation stories
02/18/03: Writing Essays, America, Beyond Bert and Ernie
02/13/03: Size matters
02/10/03: Parental homework, cheaters and memoirs
02/03/03: Diplomas, academics, preschools and Ritalin
01/27/03: Head Start, Social Studies, Marx, Africa and Math
01/22/03: Teachers as targets
01/13/03: Big Bully's Feelings
01/06/03: School of 60's Whining and Communal Destruction
12/23/02: Teaching in
12/16/02: Chocolate city?
12/10/02: Mandatory Victimhood --- and when cleaning up a school is 'racist'
11/25/02: Multi-colored math, sensitive science
11/20/02: How to leave no child behind
11/18/02: The tummy track
11/11/02: Dysfunctional documents?
11/04/02: Why go to college? Why test schools?
10/28/02: Pride goeth before an F
10/21/02: Diversity adversity
10/14/02: Bad hat day
10/07/02: Inflated sense of worth
09/30/02: The Royal road to knowledge
09/24/02: Sierra's Club
09/20/02: Stupidity Watch
09/03/02: First, win the war
08/26/02: Out of their field, out of their minds?
08/20/02: Fun with failure

© 2002, Joanne Jacobs